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11-02-06, 09:24
February 10, 2006 - Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon has undergone vast changes since the original PC version struck players with its original, stealthy and intriguing gameplay in November 2001. The litany of adjustments, additions, subtractions, and the occasional misstep are too great to list here, but understand that this game has garnered a deep and trusting fan-base that love it, above all else, for its military realism.

Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, the newest iteration in the series, takes a slightly different tack than past games. Unlike the rather unfortunate arcade-style Rainbow Six Lockdown, Advanced Warfighter retains the realism, intensity, and tactical military sensibility that has always made the series unique among military games. In fact, Red Storm has worked into the game several new and advanced future technologies that play

We spoke with Christian Allen, who's worked on the Ghost Recon series for years now, having tackled Ghost Recon Island Thunder, Ghost Recon 2, Ghost Recon Summit Strike, and this year's upcoming Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. Allen, UbiSoft's lead multiplayer game designer, spoke with us this week about the multiplayer game's diverse option set, the cross-com's uniquely tactical usage, and how other useful future technologies are implemented into the game.

One last note! Check out this killer interactive Quicktime shot of a Ghost Recon warfighter in action. Click on the image and move him around with your mouse.

IGN: Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (GRAW) looks so much better than it did at X05. What developments have happened in the last four months to give it such polish and beauty?

Christian Allen: There are often many development constraints that are hard for early viewers to appreciate, particularly in the manner that this next generation version of GRAW was developed. For starters, a next-gen title requires much larger teams which means that different areas of development are pushing their specialty. Whether it is physics, AI, or graphics, we're modifying, fixing, optimizing and ultimately fine tuning each area to achieve the best possible result. For example, we were also developing the engine specifically to push next-gen hardware, so as engineering advancements were made the game took big jumps in terms of gameplay and visuals literally every day or two.

GRAW is in parallel development, meaning that whenever we make any changes it affects all maps and not individual missions. For example, the High Dynamic Range wasn't integrated until later on. It was then integrated across all maps in one version, followed by fine tuning. On the other hand, some games are developed map by map, so you will get final quality early on in the development cycle for a couple of maps but in later maps you won't normally see them playable or at a 100% final quality until much later.

IGN: Visually, we feel like GRAW is a next-generation game. But from the sounds of it, the Xbox 360 version is just an enhanced version of Ghost Recon 2 gameplay wise. We know about the hovering drone and the Cross-Com, but do those things alone make this game "next generation?" What is something that is done in this game that can't be done in current-gen games? And, more importantly, how do these elements make the game different and fun?

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Christian Allen: I don't think that any one item can make a game "next gen." The graphics and sound in GRAW, including the HDR lighting, real-time soft shadows, high poly counts, specular and normal mapping, etc, and the 3D occlusion sound allowing you to track enemies are combined with new and established gameplay features to make the game "next gen." The cross-com adds new tactical flexibility in both the campaign missions via the use of support troops such as tanks and Blackhawks. With multiplayer team games, drones and tactics give advantages to teams that work together. In addition, the customizable game mode system, Co-Op campaign, character identity system, 16-player cooperative play, and other features come together for a truly next generation multiplayer experience on the Xbox 360.

IGN: I had a two-hour hands-on experience playing the online modes of GRAW. I didn't use the Hover drone all that much. What kind of situations is it used best in and how does it enhance gameplay when you're in the thick of a fight?

Christian Allen: Using the drone does take a bit of getting used to, especially the vertical element. In multiplayer for example, the team that uses it, along with good communication and tactical movement, will dominate the team that ignores the drone and teamwork. The drone is not a "run-and-gun' tool. It benefits the thinking player who sends it out to scout areas, or the team that uses the drone to cover a flank. Because the only time enemies are highlighted with intel icons are the ones detected by the drone, it lets you locate enemies so you can eliminate them. Of course, because the drone is relatively exposed, you have to determine when the best time to send it forward is. The enemy team can take it down with concentrated fire or explosives.

IGN: Is there any difference in the way you use the hover drone when in multiplayer than in single-player campaigns?

Christian Allen: The key difference is that in single player, you mainly use the drone to scout ahead, so you know where the enemies are before they can see you, giving you the advantage of situational awareness against an enemy with superior numbers. In multiplayer, the intel icons will only show up on enemies (and thus they will only be outlined in your 3D HUD view), giving a clear advantage to the team that uses it well (and a clear disadvantage to the team that gets their drone shot down).

IGN: What other future technologies are used in the game? By this I mean, what military advanced guns, armor, or communications technology have been implemented in GRAW to give it a more modern feel?

Christian Allen: There is a host of new technology in the game, from the new night vision based on the US Army's thermal/light enhancing ENVG system (as well as the thermal-blocking smoke grenades that can block heat signatures to counter it), and the prototype MRC case-less weapon, all part of the Integrated Warfighter System. In addition, there is a wide variety of cutting edge gear that is currently being deployed by military troops, including real gear and weapons specifically requested by some of our fans who happen to be in the Special Forces.

IGN: What kinds of cool games can you create with the new multiplayer options in GRAW?

Christian Allen: Well, there are over 1,000 different options you can choose from, based on whether you want to play Solo, Team, or Co-Op, and in Elimination (kill everyone), Territory (control zones), or Objective (capture objects).

One of my favorites is a variation on the classic Siege game mode. You set up one smaller team as defending a base, and then have the larger team attack. The key difference is that you turn on the helicopter option in Team Territory. This gives the team that controls the most zones (thus the defending team) an AI-controlled attack chopper that patrols the map, hunting enemies. A whole new take on a classic game mode! And if you want a big challenge in Co-Op, set up a five-zone Co-Op Territory mode, with around 10 players. This means you have to split up into teams to each defend the five different zones, as the AI enemies storm and try to capture them. There are a lot more options; you could basically play a different combination every day for the next couple of years.

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IGN: How deep is the create-a-player mode? And does it have any affect on gameplay?

Christian Allen: There is a range of visual options, as well as key ones that affect gameplay. On the visual side, you can choose a face for your identity, as well as choose from a whole range of real-world military gear (helmets, eyewear, headphones, etc.) to customize the look of your character. Next, you choose the class going into the match, which affects how your weapons handle. We really wanted to reward players for the way they want to play, without restricting them, so each class has a set of bonuses and negatives that affect weapon handling. For example, Marksmen get a bonus for slow controlled shots, while Automatic Rifleman can handle recoil from suppressive fire much better. You can still take any weapon, but you will still get bonuses for playing the role you have chosen.

Last, but not least, is the way ranking is affected. You can choose from various different countries, and your rank (which are based on real military ranks), will change based on your country. This also displays on the leaderboards, so that you can see which nation the top Ghost Recon players are.

IGN: How does the co-op work? What kinds of options do you have?

Christian Allen: Well, you can play Co-Op with up to 16 players with up to four per Xbox 360. There are customizable Co-op modes that are available on each of the 10 multiplayer maps, and a unique Co-Op campaign mode, allowing you to take on all new missions designed specifically for cooperative play, which takes place after the single player campaign ends.

IGN: Can you play the whole thing offline and online?

Christian Allen: While the Mexico City campaign is only available in single player, all of the multiplayer maps are available in Co-Op game modes, and once you finish the single player game, you are ready to start the new Co-Op campaign, set in Nicaragua.

Quelle: IGN.com (http://xbox360.ign.com/articles/687/687911p1.html)